Story and photo by Kerstin Lopez
Although the Army has a zero tolerance policy, sexual assault still occurs and adversely impacts many Soldiers and their surrounding communities.
When an assault happens, there are programs which provide victim advocacy services, support, information, resources and referrals. The Army Community Service Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program does just that for Fort Carson.
Hollis Champlain, Sexual Assault Response coordinator, said the program is tailored for Soldiers who have fallen victim to sexual assault. Victims are highly encouraged to come forward and report the incident so they can receive care.
The Defense Department’s annual report for 2010 indicated a 2-percent decrease of sexual assaults in the military. The Army’s fiscal 2010 statistics indicated there were nearly 1,400 reports of sexual assault Armywide.
“We like to look at it as the higher the reported number, the more likely Soldiers are willing to come forward and report cases of sexual assault,” Champlain said.
“These statistics and numbers show the effectiveness of the program and its ability to shift the perception that Soldiers are less likely to keep sexual assaults to themselves and not report them. Higher numbers in sexual assault does not always have a negative connotation, instead, it could be used to show that Soldiers feel more confident in speaking out,” said Jean McClintock, ACS Community Information and Referral Marketing Program manager.
The mission of the program is to enable military readiness by establishing a culture free of sexual assault, Champlain said.
When a Soldier decides to report the assault, there are two options of how to proceed – a restricted or an unrestricted report.
It is the victim’s choice whether or not to accept or decline services. Victims may opt for an unrestricted report, which immediately activates an official investigation, forensic examination and chain of command involvement in addition to medical and other services. An active-duty victim may also choose restricted reporting, which does not initiate an investigation, but still allows for the Soldier to receive medical treatment, advocacy and counseling services.
The reason for offering two options is because victims are more likely to report a sexual assault if they have the option of a restricted report, Champlain said, but he would like to see more unrestricted reports.
“Change starts at the top level and this option allows the chain of command to be involved and be proactive. You can’t change what you are not aware of,” McClintock said.
The theme of this year’s sexual assault awareness month is “Hurts One. Affects all.”
“Our new prevention campaign … emphasizes that behind each report is a person whose life is changed forever and a military unit that is less ready to carry out its mission. Knowing this, the Department (of Defense) remains steadfast in its commitment to preventing sexual assault, supporting victims with appropriate and timely care, and executing effective system accountability,” said Kaye Whitley, Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office director, in her annual report on sexual assault in the military.
“We are trying to change the stigma that lies with reporting of sexual assault, with the victims of how they are treated … and we’re trying to go to more of having the Soldiers look out for each other before the actual assault occurs, so they would intervene,” Champlain said.
Contact ACS at 526-4590 or go to http://www.SAPR.mil for more information regarding sexual assault awareness and programs.